embrace the bottom dwellers

July 13, 2010 ·

yes, i'm back after a lengthy bit of time off. work was busy, the move, the house renos, and taking a break. but the idea engine was stilling churning so i've got lots to write about for the next few months at least.

i decided to start back with this post because i ran into a friend 3 days ago i hadn't seen in a while. we were catching up and i noted a recent activity she had done that i read on twitter. her response was "ahh, you still read my blog." my retort was "of course i do, i don't respond or comment much, but i still read it. i'm a bit of a lurker you could say." at that moment, a thought that had been percolating for a while coalesced.

forrester defines it as a 'spectator' and not a 'lurker' as i flippantly termed it. someone who just consumes social content, but doesn't really join the conversation (at least in my case, other people's conversations - bad social media travis). what doesn't get talked about is that the majority of people fit into the 'spectator' classification according to their data (or at least a substantial amount of the population). but that's not the part that gets talked about, we only talk about the top rung or two - the 'creators' and 'critics'.

marketing is still a numbers game and it always will be. like it or not, accept it or not, it is still fundamental to success. yes, we are far more sophisticated about it now, but in the end, it takes large amounts of people to buy into your brand for them to be successful and sustainable. plain and simple, irrefutable.

so the 'spectators' are the numbers game (the few at the top being the influencer game). they are there, extracting value, receiving our messages, and likely still being impacted (hopefully positively). they don't want to interact, they don't want to talk, they don't want to dialog. if they did, they would. what i'm trying to point to is the value side of our social media efforts for the 'spectators.' too much is focused on the upper tiers while ignoring the effect we are having on the lower ones.

i suspect that part of the issue lies in that it's not immediately evident the effect we are having on them. it's easy on the higher levels because we have actual consumer output to verify and validate our brand activities. well we don't have that for the bottom. so it's much easier to glom onto the importance of the upper echelons because it can be discerned much easier and that serves the industry. the problem is that the industry isn't thinking of the marketing/advertising industry holistically, they are just thinking of the social media industry and that's self serving.

this isn't morphing into me saying we should use social media as a broadcast channel. not at all. not solely anyway - there's still good effect it can have (more to come on this). all brands should be social. but they can only be social with the consumers who want to be. that's the value they want - the interaction. but there's a whole other sphere who want value from just consuming the content. they are getting value from both the brand's content and from the content derived from the interactions with consumers. but we aren't understanding that side of it and we need to.

how you ask? well, clearly not with social tools. it's back to some more traditional ways like interviews, intercepts, questionnaires to find out how the brand is increasing in key measures, whatever the important ones happen to be for your brand.

is this a more esoteric pursuit of roi than number of comments - yes. does it have its place in our work in social media - yes. if you think about it, the 'spectators' have been the audience of media advertising since forever. we've always valued them before so why should we stop now? we shouldn't. they are a huge market, one that is still very valuable, needs to be included in the mix and substantiated in our overall assessments.

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